WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 – “Republicans have trouble speaking to minorities and women, and Democrats have trouble speaking to farmers and rural people” – so began Marshall Matz’s speech to the Farm Journal Forum in Washington, D.C., today, which encouraged the agriculture experts in the audience to improve their messaging to appeal to the Democratic administration. Matz, a veteran agriculture advocate and partner at OFW Law, focused on the Obama administration’s agriculture priorities in the coming second term, and suggested ways in which the communication gap between farmers, the public, and Democrats might be bridged.

“My biggest concern,” Matz said, “is that Americans do not understood that modern agriculture is sustainable and good for the environment.”

The agriculture professional rejected Michael Pollan-esque arguments against scary-sounding biotechnology – but granted that the food writer’s ideas have a broad appeal. “When I was Counsel to the Senate Agriculture Committee,” Matz admitted, “I was very wary of the term biotechnology…In the 1970’s, biotechnology meant using the maximum amount of fertilizers and pesticides to boost yields.”

But nowadays, Matz argued, biotech is less weird-science threat and more real-world salvation. “Today,” he said, “technology, including biotechnology…means using GPS to reduce inputs; it means seeds that use less water, fewer nutrients and fewer pesticides.”

The public, however, rarely understands the positives of agriculture. “If only one percent of Americans farm,” he asked, “how can the other 99% possibly understand what it takes to deliver a safe and inexpensive food supply unless the people in this room tell them?”

The key to influencing those at the top, Matz said, is to sway the public at the “bottom.” “If the public understands the issue,” he argued, “the political ‘leaders’ in Washington will follow. There really is no choice.”

Matz urged agriculture advocates to exploit the Obama administration’s demonstrated interest in sustainable agriculture to make a case for expanded “green” research and investment.

He also asked that science professionals steps up to the plate. “No one is going to believe a lawyer-lobbyist,” Matz concluded, motioning toward himself. or industry The scientific experts must speak out - our agriculture deans, winners of the world food prize and respected world leaders.”


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